Shawnee to allow restaurant seating in parallel parking areas along Johnson Drive downtown

The Shawnee council is allowing temporary parklets for restaurants and bars downtown to utilize during the COVID-19 pandemic. Parklets are elevated decks, flush with the curb, that will be located in the parallel parking spaces along Johnson Drive. Above, Mike McVey in front of his business, Transport Brewery. File photo.

The Shawnee City Council on Monday agreed to allow restaurants and drinking establishments in the downtown area to extend outdoor seating into the parking spaces along Johnson Drive.

The parklet concept allows retail food and beverage businesses to utilize the parallel parking as a sidewalk extension for additional outdoor space and seating. The parklets can also be used for seating, dining, waiting, recreation areas or sales.

Parklets are temporary and must be designed for quick and easy removal for emergencies and should not damage the curb or street, according to city documents. The effective dates for the parklets are June 23 through Nov. 1.

The city council’s 6-0 votes allowed the following:

  • The temporary parklet concept for restaurants and drinking establishments to utilize in the parallel parking spaces in front of their businesses
  • The temporary use of public right-of-way for the consumption of alcohol for use by food and beverage retail businesses downtown
  • The allocation of up to $7,500 to assist applicable businesses with parklet expenses, including materials, labor, and/or professional design costs

Below is an overview map of the downtown district marking off the parallel parking spaces that could be used for parklets:

Councilmembers wanted to ensure public safety remains top priority, since customers would be sitting close to moving traffic. Others said they would support a reduction of the speed limit from 30 mph to 20 or 25 mph downtown, a concept that some downtown businesses also support. City staff suggested the parklets could include hard or “permanent” barriers with reflective features to increase visibility of the parklets for traffic.

Some city leaders had concerns that parking is already at a premium downtown, and removing any parking spaces to make room for the parklets could be prohibitive for downtown businesses. Caitlin Gard, assistant city manager, said city staff is exploring options to publicize available parking downtown.

Some councilmembers also suggested making the parklets an annual feature if the concept is successful. Councilmember Jill Chalfie said one business owner who reached out to her said the parklets could be cost-prohibitive if it were a one-time deal, but they would be willing to invest more in the concept if it were recurring.

Gard said the city follows restrictions from the Kansas Department of Revenue’s alcoholic beverage control services, but if it were successful, then staff supports bringing the concept forward.